The Whale Hunt
December 10, 2007 7:31 PM   Subscribe

A photographic catalog of a traditional whale hunt. (Flash, photos include whale hunting in all its bloody detail) In order to develop an experimental interface for storytelling, photographer Jonathan Harris accompanied a family of Inupiat Eskimos on a subsistence whale hunt. During his week long journey, he took 3,214 photographs, including pictures taken every 5 minutes while he was sleeping. The navigation allows for for very quick navigation through the series, using a heartbeat metaphor and a number of filtering constraints so that you can narrow your search to cast members, locations on the journey, and even something as loose as a photo's "concept". via
posted by mkb (20 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Very clever UI. Thanks for posting.
posted by dhammond at 7:38 PM on December 10, 2007

Very interesting, especially the display UI.

Annoying the way the captions were right over the content of the picture and were also crossed out, but other than that I liked it.
posted by Brockles at 7:55 PM on December 10, 2007

I've only just started browsing the Whale Hunt site, and already it feels like I'm looking at something really incredible -- not just the subsistence whaling/man v. nature aspect visually told up close and personal, but the site's interface itself, and the thought and metadata that went into it.

Excellent link, thanks.
posted by pineapple at 8:00 PM on December 10, 2007

Brockles, apparently the "crossed out" captions are a feature, not a bug. From the bottom of the "interface" page:

"The Whale Hunt interface uses a custom typography system, developed for this project, in which each letterform is bisected by a whaling harpoon."
posted by pineapple at 8:01 PM on December 10, 2007

From a technical standpoint, the site is impressive. The Flash coding is clearly top notch. From a design perspective, the UI is cool, innovative, and fun to explore. With that said, I don't know how much the site served the photography. There was something in the nature of the sliding left-to-right motion that felt jarring, rather than an analog sense of time passing. Or maybe the project as a whole is somewhat misconceived. Taking 3,000 pictures and then posting all of them, is very... web, but, although I appreciate the idea of trying to convey how time passes in such an unforgiving and foreign environment, I don't know if that's the best way to show it. For some reason what I really wanted was some ambient audio-- I wanted to hear what it was like out there. Anyway, plenty of stunning shots along the way. Well worth the trip.
posted by gwint at 8:04 PM on December 10, 2007

Fully agree with gwint. Needs more cowbell.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:11 PM on December 10, 2007

This is why there's editors.
posted by photoslob at 8:19 PM on December 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

"The Whale Hunt interface uses a custom typography system, developed for this project, in which each letterform is bisected by a whaling harpoon."

Oh, a feature. One of those. Then allow me to modify my initial statement:

Annoying the way the captions were right over the content of the picture and the 'feature' where they were also crossed out.

I could cope with the harpoon as long as they didn't block the entire bloody picture. Extremely distracting, especially when the majority of the shots were framed in such a way as to produce significant dead area/white space at the bottom and top of the photo. Someone more cynical than me would perhaps suggest that dead space was a wonderful place for a caption, rather than slap bang across the subject so that you had to play a game of clicky-fucky 'beat the slideshow' to toggle it on and off if you wanted to see both.

A triumph of design over clarity.

Fuck. Am I getting old? I'm sure this shouldn't be irritating me so much. Maybe I'll start grumbling about indistinct lyrics and not-readily-accessible dance beats, next.
posted by Brockles at 8:43 PM on December 10, 2007 [2 favorites]

This is why there's editors.

Got that right. This is a pretty excruciating exercise in patience. I'm sure there are some good pictures in there, but I can't find them and there's no way for anybody that does find them to tell anyone else how to see them. The flash interface, however, is interesting, not least because the pictures show up so quickly.
posted by msbrauer at 9:24 PM on December 10, 2007

Crap. I thought that the REAL Jonathan Harris had somehow managed to escape death.
posted by davidmsc at 9:31 PM on December 10, 2007

This is what websites would be like if we used them to emulate reality.

If I had a website for my last fifteen minutes, it would be a series of screenshots of me typing, thinking what I typed was dumb, erasing, typing more, still thinking what I typed was dumb, and then ultimately putting it on the web anyway because i already put fifteen minutes into it.
posted by localhuman at 11:21 PM on December 10, 2007

Good find thanks.
posted by marvin at 11:29 PM on December 10, 2007

Nice one...I lived in Alaska as a boy in the 60's...but never saw a whale hunt. The interface design is quite nice. I took the time to read the explanation and learn how to use it.

The only shortcoming I found, and maybe I missed something, but there wasn't a way to simply move one frame forward/backward. Otherwise...the Timeline worked OK and the Constraint icons were very well done...and the photography good too...

Someone above mentioned the captions. They can be turned off.
posted by rmmcclay at 6:01 AM on December 11, 2007

Site is now 403 (thanks a lot, Digg/Reddit)
posted by mrbill at 9:41 AM on December 11, 2007

Glad it's not just me, mrbill.
posted by bassjump at 9:45 AM on December 11, 2007

I was just in Alaska and had a chance to participate in the thanksgiving whale distribution in an Inupiat church (ate me some muktuk too, and damn good it was). It was impressive as hell to see how a few whales fed so many families, elderly folks and children especially.

A good fifty percent of the protein of most Inupiats on the North Slope still comes from subsistence hunting and whaling. Here are some good sources for context:

Alaska: Big Oil and the Inupiat-Americans By Peter Matthiessen (NY Rev. of Books, Nov 22,2007)

Tension at the Edge of Alaska
Published: December 4, 2007, New York Times
Jad Mouwad

See the accompanying slide show and audio here. ("A Dilemma in the Arctic")
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:43 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

I just got done reading Moby Dick a few weeks ago, about a third of which is simply a text book on whaling. This should be interesting, though probably a lot more technically sophisticated.
posted by hwestiii at 12:59 PM on December 11, 2007

... and the site is now available again.
posted by mrbill at 12:36 AM on December 12, 2007

Jonathan Harris is also the creator of 10x10, Lovelines, Phylotaxis, Universe and Yahoo's Netrospective: 10 years, 100 moments of the Web (among other creative projects).

Previously here at MeFi - 1, 2, 3, 4.
posted by ericb at 3:47 PM on December 14, 2007

My whale-killing vacation.

Next up: Real-time vivisection.
posted by humannaire at 1:04 PM on December 20, 2007

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